Category Archives: Information

Google Nest Hub gets Disney+

Disney+ launched not long ago (November 12, 2019 to be precise) and it has a lot of content, that isn’t just for children, although there is plenty of that. After all, these parks also cater to adults and so to do the movies and TV shows on its network. The company built by Mickey has come a long way.

With a subscription, you get all of the content, from the animated movies from Disney and Pixar to things like Marvel, Star Wars, National Geographic and others.

The company claims it’s as easy as “Say, ‘Hey Google, play “The Mandalorian’ on Disney+” to start streaming instantly. You can also already cast Disney+ from your compatible mobile devices to your Nest Smart Displays and Assistant-enabled devices by opening the streaming service’s mobile app and tapping the Cast icon, or stream anytime on your Android TV.”

Google also announces that Otterbox has created a way to make your device look like Mickey Mouse, just to fit with the new Disney+ feature.

In addition, the search giant has released “Frozen” entertainment for everyone. “Join some of your ‘Frozen’ favorites –Anna, Elsa, Olaf, and Kristoff — around the campfire as they tell legends exploring the world of ‘Frozen 2.’ You can hear these stories on Google Assistant-enabled Android and iOS phones, smart speakers and Smart Displays. To get started, just say, “Hey Google, tell me a ‘Frozen’ story” and you can pick which character you’d like to narrate.”

If you have one of these devices and a Disney+ subscription then you can get started right now.

UK Government to Bar Telecoms from Buying Huawei Equipment

The UK government will bar telecom companies from purchasing new equipment made by China’s Huawei Technologies Co., The Wall Street Journal reported. The telecom companies have until 2027 to remove Huawei technology from their 5G networks.

Senior executives from Vodafone Group PLC and BT Group PLC told a parliamentary committee last week that a five-to-seven-year time frame would be needed to remove Huawei equipment to avoid disruption. But a group of Conservative lawmakers has been pressing the government to remove the equipment at a faster pace.

One thing to consider (as reported by The Wall Street Journal) is that the British telecoms have warned that the deadline to remove Huawei products from their networks could result in blackouts for customers. Personally, I think that’s going to negatively affect people, especially considering how many people are using the internet to connect with family members and to work from home during the coronavirus pandemic.

In May, the U.S. Department of Commerce unveiled a new rule that that expanded U.S. authority to require licenses for sales to Huawei Technologies of semiconductors made abroad with U.S. technology.

The UK government’s decision that requires telecoms to stop buying Huawei equipment comes after the rule made by the United States. According to The Wall Street Journal, the British the U.S. rule has raised questions about the quality of Huawei kit in the future.

The BBC reported that there are other political considerations that may have influenced the UK government to separate its telecom infrastructure from Huawei. According to the BBC, the UK wants to strike a trade deal with the United States. My assumption is that the U.S. might look more favorably upon countries that exclude Huawei than ones that do not.

The BBC also reported that there are growing tensions with China over China’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak and its treatment of Hong Kong (which was once a British colony).

Nextdoor Removed the “Forward to Police” Feature

Nextdoor has removed the “Forward to Police” feature. The site, which people often use to get help finding a lost pet, is removing the feature as part of their anti-racism work. Obviously, people will still be able to use their phone to call the police if they are in danger or if they want to report a crime.

We have made the decision to remove the Forward to Police feature from Nextdoor. As part of our anti-racism work and our efforts to make Nextdoor a place where all neighbors feel welcome, we have been examining all aspects of our product. After speaking with members and public agency partners, it is clear that the Forward to Police feature does not meet the needs of our members and only a small percentage of law enforcement agencies choose to use the tool.

Previous to this change, Nextdoor stated that law enforcement agencies have had an additional feature that they can enable called “Forward to Police”, which allows a neighbor on Nextdoor to forward their safety post or urgent alert to local law enforcement. Nextdoor has now removed that feature.

Bloomberg CityLab reported that Nextdoor’s Forward to Police feature was introduced in 2016. It was added because police officers cannot view private neighborhood groups. The feature offered police departments a way to field neighborhood complaints directly without monitoring every post like a blotter. CityLab reported that “dozens of” police “departments across the country had signed up” for the Forward to Police feature.

The Root posted an article titled: “The Racist Nextdoor”, written by Michael Harriot. It provides plenty of examples of racism on Nextdoor. The article includes information posted on Nextdoor from people who described the racist things their neighbor’s posted on their local Nextdoor.

It is good that Nextdoor has removed their Forward to Police feature. There is plenty of evidence that racist people were using that feature as a means to harass and abuse people who aren’t white (including children). Allowing racist people to forward their complaints to police departments through Nextdoor is dangerous for the person that is being reported.

The removal of the feature means those who want to contact their local police department will have to do it themselves, by phone, where they may be asked for their names. Perhaps removing people’s ability to write racist things on Nextdoor anonymously,and then get the police involved through Nextdoor, will make neighborhoods safer.

More Backgrounds to Hide the Clutter

The lockdown might be easing in your country, but it doesn’t look like working from home is going to go away anytime soon: VPNs, Office 365, Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Google Meet are all the new norms for the working day. With all the family at home, flat surfaces are at a premium and the kitchen table is now my office, though the view from my webcam is a less-than-professional untidy pile of cookery books, mismatched placemats and unfinished school homework. Unlike Satya Nadella of Microsoft, I don’t have anyone to dress the background.

Fortunately, there are now loads of fun backgrounds that can be inserted into videoconferencing to hide the clutter. Over the past few days Nintendo, Lego, Studio Ghibli and Star Wars have all dropped suitable images, and don’t forget Disney Pixar has been busy too. Even if you aren’t chatting over the interweb, the images are great desktop backgrounds too.

Click through on the links to see more as there are many additional images on the web sites.


Studio Ghibli


Star Wars

Have fun and stay safe.

Home servers and media computers, have I become a dinosaur?

Going back about 12 years I built two computers, a media center for the home theater cabinet in the living room and a server to back up all files – that one resided in my home office. 

These days those things seem to be gone from our tech landscape, and I miss them. I miss building them myself and setting up everything. I want to do it again. 

Both of those computers I mentioned are gone now, thigs age. I miss them, but time moves forwards, after all my kids grew up and are hundreds of miles away now. 

For the media center PC I bought a used desktop – I needed something to fit on one of the cabinet shelves. I changed the video card, audio card, added RAM and storage and fed it out to the AV receiver to relay to my TV. 

To start I used Windows Media Center Edition, but wasn’t happy so I tried XBMC (since changed to Kodi), but I didn’t care for that either. I settled on Media Portal. My kids used that system all the time growing up. 

I want to build another, but don’t know that it’s worth it these days. 

Speaking of wanting to build again, a home server. The last one I ran on Free NAS, which is Unix related operating system. I built that from a tower case I had laying around. I added about 1.5 TB of storage to it. 

Setup isn’t difficult, but you need to hook a monitor to the PC to get through it. After that disconnect the monitor, it runs headless. Just enter the URL for the dashboard on another PC and you have control. 

Again, I do want to build another, but is it worth it with the cloud? My files are backed up to OneDrive and Google Drive, do I need a server? Do I need a media center PC? Granted I want both, and I’d like to check out Linux MCE, although I’d probably still end up back on Media Portal. 

So, is either worth my time and money? Let me know what you think. 

Amazon is updating its Fire 8 tablets

It has been a while since Amazon updated its tablets, but that’s about to change. The company sort of snuck this by with no post to the official blog.

They have, however, come up with an update to the Fire 8 tablets. In an announcement sent to us the company says it will be releasing new Fire tablets soon. The next generation of its Fire HD 8 tablet lineup, designed with the entire family in mind: the all-new Fire HD 8, Fire HD 8 Plus, and Fire HD 8 Kids Edition.

“The new Fire HD 8 tablets offer the features that everyone in the family wants – great content, more storage, longer battery life — at a price that is incredibly affordable,” says Kevin Keith, Vice President, Amazon Devices.

So what do you get with the Fire HD 8? 32 GB of storage, up to 12 hours of battery life and fast charging thanks to USB-C.  Amazon also states “the Fire HD 8 Plus packs even more power with 50% more RAM, hassle-free wireless charging, and six months of Kindle Unlimited included.”

You can pre-order any of these now, but you’ll need to wait until June to get one. We’ll have one for review and let you know our opinion, but it sounds enticing. Prices begin at $89.99.

DEF CON and Black Hat are Going Virtual

DEF CON 28 announced their in-person event that was scheduled to take place August 6-9, 2020, has been cancelled. Black Hat also announced that it has cancelled its in-person event, which would have taken place August 1-6, 2020. This is likely not a surprise to most people, considering the number of events that have either cancelled, or postponed, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

DEF CON will be holding a virtual event called DEF CON 28 Safe Mode. It will take place August 7-9 (Friday through Sunday) with 101 orientation Thursday. The entire event will be done remotely. Their FAQ states that they aren’t sure yet if there will be a virtual talk track, or virtual tracks for demo labs, workshops, or training. There will be swag – in the form of t-shirts that say “DEF CON is canceled.”

DEF CON has scheduled DEF CON 29 for August 5-8, 2021. I suppose it is possible that the COVID-19 pandemic won’t be an issue by then, but there’s no way to know that for certain.

Black Hat says they are “inspired to adapt Black Hat USA in a virtual format that will be available to our entire global community”. Their team is working to deliver the same level of high-quality Briefings, Trainings and Business Hall programs that Black Hat attendees have come to to expect every year.

Those who want to know more should check the Black Hat website, where updates will be posted.

Personally, I think the COVID-19 pandemic is going to force more and more in-person events to turn into virtual ones. Nobody wants to be the company or organization who makes the news because people who attended their event got sick from the virus. There have been many events, conferences, concerts, and local large gatherings that have either been cancelled, postponed, or gone virtual. Things are going to be like this for a while.